The United States looked completely uncomfortable, outplayed for long stretches of the game, and had to thank Matt Turner for literally saving them from further embarassment against a proactive Japan side to go down in a shutout loss at the Merkur Spiel Arena in Dusseldorf, Germany, on Friday.
With several regulars ruled out of the game due to injuries, this gave players on the bubble for the trip to Qatar in two months’ time a chance to keep themselves in the convesation as head coach Gregg Berhalter looks to finalize is roster by the November 9 deadline.
Berhalter’s trusted 4-3-3 formation saw several adjustments as Sergino Dest made his return to the team to take up his spot at right-back. Aaron Long partnered with Walker Zimmerman in central defense, while Sam Vines got the nod at left-back in the absence of Antonee Robinson.
In midfield, Luca de la Torre partnered with Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie as Yunus Musah was ruled out. Up top, Brenden Aaronson started on the right with Jesus Ferreira in the center
The U.S. had their first good chance at goal in the seventh minute when Dest was able to outmuscle Takefuso Kubo to cross the ball into the area for Ferreira The FC Dallas forward could have done better with his effort as his header went over the bar.
Japan was always going to be a tough opponent as both sides try to prepare as best as they can for the World Cup, and they showed it with their technical prowess and pressing throughout the first half which left the U.S. very timid and with no answers on how to break through.
Zimmerman and Long made gaffes in the half as they gave the ball away to give the Samurai Blue chances at goal. Japan took advantage of every mistake and were rewarded in the 24th minute when McKennie’s own giveaway saw Hidemasa Morita play the ball to a wide open Daichi Kamada to curl around Turner. There seemed to be some confusion as to whether VAR would be used in the game as there was a dispute as to whether there was an offside. However, a review confirmed that the goal was good.
Berhalter finally made adjustments in the second half as he brought on four player to start the second half and moved Vines up to the left wing. There was some slight improvement, but the team continued to give away the ball and get carved up by the Japanese when they were on the attack. If not for Turner’s saves, the scoreline would have been much bigger.
The U.S. then had a glimmer of hope in the 80th minute when Aaronson, who seemed to be the main target of Japan throughout the game, found himself with a chance to level the score, but his shot went wide of the target.
Japan then put the game out of reach in the 88th minute when substitute Kaoru Mitoma dribbled past two U.S. defenders to put his own curler past Turner.
A very disappointing performance and result as many questions will arise before the U.S. takes the field against Saudi Arabia next week in Spain.